x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

The Porsche GT3 RS snarls, but it's actually quite civil

For a vastly powerful, highly tuned sports car, the GT3 RS is remarkably well mannered, says David Booth.

The interior is suitably racy.
The interior is suitably racy.

Porsche's press kit for the GT3 RS says it can accelerate to 100kph in 3.9 seconds. That, of course, is truly remarkable acceleration. But, to be perfectly fair, it's still significantly in arrears of a common-as-toast 911 Turbo which can rattle off consistent 3.3s thanks to its quick-shifting PDK seven-speed gearbox with computerised launch control. The GT3 RS, meanwhile, goes decidedly retro with an old-school manual gearbox that is still shifted by the least competent gear-selecting mechanism of all, the human in the driver's seat.

Said gearbox is not the only throwback technology beneath the GT3's achingly gorgeous, partially carbon-fibred skin. Porsche didn't start with its latest high-tech direct-injection Boxer six when it created the new GT3 RS, but something called the Mezger engine - a derivative of the block that first powered the racing GT1 way back in the mid-nineties. It's named after Porsche engineer Hans Mezger, the man behind the 1,200hp 917s that once ruled Le Mans, and it's old enough, says Porsche, that this will be its swansong.

It's quite a send-off. Stroked rather than bored for its displacement increase to 4.0L, this is an engine that's been tuned to within an inch of its life. Along the way, it's gained titanium connecting rods, a tuned manifold from the GT3 R Hybrid racer and all manner of other gizmos to wring every last Newton-metre of torque from those four litres. The compression ratio is an extremely high 12.6:1, and the GT3's poor 102.7mm pistons are travelling an almost Formula One-like 22.8m per second when the GT3 spins all the way to its 8,500rpm redline.

The amazing thing is that the GT3's engine doesn't act the slightest bit highly strung. Engines tuned this highly are supposed to be difficult beasts, temperamental in their comportment and ready to explode at the slightest provocation. The GT3 is just the opposite. Below 4,000rpm, the GT3 sounds like pretty much any other Porsche Boxer six, albeit one with a particularly effusive exhaust system. As the car (rather quickly) gathers speed past four grand, however, its VarioCam variable valve timing starts working its magic and the exhaust note gets decidedly more urgent. The bang from those big 666 cubic centimetre combustion chambers seems sharper, the urge to internally combust that much more insistent, but still within the realm of normal Porschedom.

And if you never exceeded 6,500rpm you might be left wondering what all the hubbub surrounding the GT3 was about. But keep your foot into it and, as the revs stretch for that last 2,000rpm, its twin conical air filters add their own melodrama to all the cacophony. By the time the tach needle swings to the GT3's 8,500 redline, the intake's honking sucking sound has you worrying for low-flying birds, lest the poor creatures get vacuumed into the engine's vortex. Ferraris may have more melodic exhausts, but nothing compares with the GT3's induction roar.

Of course, all this assumes that you've got time to pay attention to this aural delight. Saying the GT3 is fast doesn't even begin to capture the way it shoves you back into the seat. Hence, my contention that its 3.9 second acceleration time, laudable as it is, is not representative of the GT3's true performance potential.

But, in truth, neither the symphonic engine note nor the otherworldly acceleration is the big surprise. Rather, it is the amazing tractability of this highly tuned motor that continued to astound long after I got used to just how quickly it could make the telephone poles fly past.

Instead, the GT3, or at least its engine, is a model of civility. Although the heady part of its powerband is towards the top end of the rev range, the car can easily be torqued out of hairpins at 3,000rpm, third gear stretching all the way from piddling out of a slimy hairpin all the way to 200kph without touching that gearshift knob. That an engine could produce so much power from so little displacement is not altogether astounding; that it could be so civilised in doing so is.

That's not to say that driving a GT3 is easy or that it is completely housebroken. Street legal it may be, but a daily driver it is not. The downside of its racerish intent is that there's a lot of background noise that would otherwise be banished. Sitting in neutral, for instance, ticking away at its sub-1,000rpm idle with not even a hint of the orchestral exhaust music that awaits, the GT3 has already announced that it is a race car with a clutch rattle loud enough to roust the dead.

Besides that stiff clutch, slightly reluctant gear shift lever and all that noise, there's the adjustable suspension offering two settings of immovable and intractable, the tight-fitting, non-adjustable Recaro sports seats (conventional seating is available) and the ceramic discs with Brembo brakes, which are more sensitive than a Greek civil servant being asked to give up his pension benefits. The steering feels as if it is hard-wired directly to your synapses in charge of directional computation. Of course, that same exactness can feel a little darty when all that you want is to cruise down the motorway with minimal fuss. Said twitchiness can be attributed to two factors: that all the synthetic bushings in the suspension system have been replaced by metal and also because, at 1,360kg, the car is just so darned light (the front fenders are formed of carbon fibre and there's a lithium-ion battery on offer to further reduce weight).

Nonetheless, though you could, I suppose, drive a GT3 RS every day, it is very much a race car barely tamed for street legality. Don't let the licence plate fool you. With only 600 units to be built worldwide, it will be difficult to come by but, already, Porsche dealerships in the UAE should have taken delivery on a few models ordered here. But know then that when you finally see a GT3 RS, you have seen Porsche's most single-minded street-going 911 ever. And then wait for the exhaust howl.

Base price

Dh682,100

Engine 4.0L boxer six cylinder

Gearbox Seven-speed automatic

Power 493 hp @ 8250rpm

Torque 461Nm @ 5750rpm

Fuel economy, combined

13.8L/100 km